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King County sees increase in shooting victims in 2020 amid pandemic

A memorial for a person named Lorenzo is seen near the site where he was killed adjacent to the protest area known as CHOP on June 20, 2020. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

New local data shows a significant increase in fatal shooting victims in King County in 2020, part of a larger trend beginning to take shape across the United States.

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According to data from the King County Prosecutor’s Office, 2020 has already seen 140 shooting victims countywide, a 21% increase over the three-year average for Q1 and Q2 set between 2017 and 2019. Fatal shooting victims are up 44% over that same period, while non-fatal shooting victims are up 16%.

Of those, a disproportionate number were people of color, totaling 73%. Among all victims, most were between the ages of 18-24, with 15 of them younger than 17 years old.

Roughly 55% of shooting victims in King County were reported outside of Seattle city limits, across areas like Auburn, Des Moines, Federal Way, Kent, Renton, and Tukwila.

“Gun violence is a public health crisis,” Seattle Major Jenny Durkan said Wednesday. “This new report on gun violence in King County is a sobering reminder that even during a global pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the devastating impact gun violence has on our communities.”

This comes during what King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg labels a “historic backlog of felony cases” brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, with over 5,000 cases still waiting to be resolved.

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This spate of gun violence aligns with a developing national trend. Some experts point to an American public increasingly stressed by the coronavirus pandemic, which has roiled the economy and kept them at home. That’s in addition to deep divisions over racial justice and policing, and the political divides of a presidential election year.

“There’s something going on at the moment, these underlying tensions,” James Densley, professor of law enforcement and criminal justice at Metropolitan State University, told the Associated Press. “Everyone’s been cooped up for so long with the pandemic, and then we had this sort of explosion of anger and grief after George Floyd’s killing.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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